Yes, get the digitals.
When ordering after your photography session, always get the digital files. They are your personal family archive and should be protected in multiple ways. Think about your birth certificate. That should be in a fireproof safe with a copy safely tucked away at your parent’s house. To lose your birth certificate would be an enormous headache, one I’ve come very close to experiencing.
Personally, I’ve not lost my birth certificate, but I did lose my marriage license and didn’t realize it until about 12 years later when I had to upgrade my driver’s license to the REAL ID and all I had was the fancy, embossed certificate signed by the minister for photos. Turns out, I needed the actual license that had been filed with the county, and I had no memory of ever laying eyes on that piece of paper. It took several months and lots of headaches and tears to track down the right office in Tennessee but I finally have proof. So the moral of that story is: don’t lose your important papers!
And the same rings true for your family’s photos: don’t lose your favorite memories! To have the hard drive with all your most precious family memories on it crash is an unparalleled level of devastation and anguish. And I had that happen, too. About three years into my photography career, I had multiple hard drive failures, back to back. It was the perfect storm of worst-case scenarios. And as a result, I lost years of memories, including most of Samantha’s first year of life. And no amount of recovery software could get it back for me. It remains one of my biggest regrets and hardest learned lessons.
It comes down to not relying on just one medium or method. Digitals and printed pictures should go hand-in-hand for both daily enjoyment and long-term safekeeping.
So for your family’s memories, please ensure that they are safe and secure.
1) BACK UP THE DIGITAL FILES to an external hard drive (ideally two) and don’t keep everything on a single computer (because it WILL someday fail). I organize my files according to year and then month, so I can go back and access them whenever needed. I also take it a step further and have another external hard drive backing up that external hard drive. A copy of a copy, if you will. Since I am also archiving for my clients, I am doing my best to learn from the past and be as prudent as possible.
2) PRINT THE IMAGES in a high-quality format at a minimum size of 4×6 to allow for potential scanning. I give all my clients a set of 4×6 prints to match their digital files, both for display and for safekeeping. The best method is to take your favorite memories, the ones that would break your heart to lose, and have a small, dedicated fireproof safe (or room in your large one) just for pictures. Organize them according to year for easy tracking and keep adding more every time you get a new set of prints. The safe will help protect them against the elements (i.e. mold, water damage, rodents) and help you stay organized over the years.
3) SAVE TO THE CLOUD as an extra level of security and backup. I recommend using two cloud-based services (such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc), but make sure that the cloud services are reputable, trustworthy, and not tied to a consumer-based company, like the ones offered by Walmart or Shutterfly. The reason being that those type of services are known for getting ” updated” every few years, aka reset, and all your pictures are erased. Meanwhile, dedicated cloud services, like Dropbox, exist solely to keep your files protected. Otherwise, they’d be out of business. And it will probably cost a little extra to have enough storage for all your photos, but I’ve found that you can’t put a price on peace of mind.
4) DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR PHONE and ensure that those photos are backed up, too. Phones get lost all the time, smartphones crash or have to be reset and just like that, thousands of pictures are gone. And it can be just as devastating as a computer failure or your pictures being lost in a fire. Our phones are with us all the time and I love the convenience of being able to take a picture of something at a moment’s notice. And with kids, that can equal up to a lot of really cute pictures, especially with phone storage getting bigger and bigger with every new model. And with great storage comes great responsibility…. Take advantage of iCloud, Amazon Photos, Google Drive, Dropbox , or any of the other mobile cloud options available. Many of them offer background uploads so you can just set it and forget it.
5) SCAN PRINTED PICTURES TO DIGITAL to create backups for your older photos, especially ones from your own childhood and youth. Just the same as we don’t want digital files to only live in a computer folder, it’s also important that those childhood photo albums and box of pictures from our college years get scanned into the computer (or phone!) to create a digital copy that is then backed up through the above methods, so it’s kept safe for future generations. And the bonus is that you now have something to share on #throwbackthursday!
I hope this advice has been helpful and shown the importance of safeguarding your printed pictures and digital files through multiple backup methods. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or DM me on social media and I’ll be happy to help!
And I’ll leave you with this sappy thought: Just like we love to look at pictures of our grandparents back in their glory days, one day our grandchildren will love to look at the very pictures we are backing up right now. Protect your family’s memories so future generations can enjoy them one day.
Current availability is for Spring & Summer 2023 sessions and I am reserving due dates through the end of 2023. Please get in touch to get all the details and begin planning your family's session.
If you’re expecting a little one in the greater Anchorage or Matsu Valley area or desperately need updated pictures of your own growing family, then I would love to chat about documenting these unforgettable moments and memories
Megan Marlene Photography offers Maternity, Newborn, Baby, Fresh 48, and Family Sessions for the Greater Anchorage Area, including Kenai, Girdwood, Eagle River, Chugiak, Palmer, Wasilla, Big Lake, Sutton, and welcomes families from across Alaska.
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Such great advice!!
Yassssss, always print!! Albums, albums! Such a good reminder. They always look better in print anyways!
This is SO important! Thanks so much for sharing!!!
This is SUCH good advice! I think a lot of people think that digital images will be safe forever, but it’s so not the case!
This is so helpful! Now I need to get a system in place.
So helpful! It’s so important to educate our clients and help guide them. Beautiful work by the way, very consistent;)
These are such great tips and all are so important!
7 Comments on Protecting your family’s memories against damage and harddrive crashes | Anchorage Family Photographer